By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)
U.S.D.A. meteorologist Brad Rippey says abnormally dry conditions are likely to persist in Iowa through the summer.
“As we move each day with this dry weather and suddenly warm weather, we’re seeing short term dryness just exploding across the Midwest,” Rippey told Radio Iowa.
The most recent U.S.D.A. Drought Monitor indicates 57% of Iowa is either abnormally dry or is experiencing some level of drought. “Dryness that developed last year mid to late summer has lasted through the winter and now we’ve got short term dryness redeveloping over that, so you have not only subsoil moisture depletion, but topsoil moisture depletion as well,” Rippey said. “In those most driest areas, it is starting to have an impact on crops and pastures.”
Pockets of severe or extreme drought stretches through four northwest Iowa counties and three counties in southeast Iowa.
“We’ve seen these deficits that have built up in terms of rainfall and precipitation starting last year and then lasting through the winter where we had relatively little snowfall to replenish topsoil moisture,” Rippey said, “and now that it’s warmed up we’ve really seen these issues start to compound.”
The definition of exceptional drought that’s happening in northwest and southeast Iowa is something that is experienced once every 20 to 50 years according to Rippey. “So that’s truly significant and that is why you’re starting to see the impact on the groundwater, the stream flow and, consequently, water supply issues, so a much more deeply entrenched drought in the western third of the state,” Rippey says.
While Rippey is not expecting Iowa to have the kind of decades long drought that California has experienced, 29% of Iowa was considered to be in a drought by last week.
“From border to border, all the way to the Missouri to the Mississippi, we are seeing those drought impacts starting to crop up,” Rippey said.
The last major droughts to hit Iowa were in 1988 and 2012.